Laurel blacksmith competes on History channel’s ‘Forged in Fire’

Outlook staff writer
Thursday, August 11, 2022
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John Lockie demonstrates forging techniques.

John Lockie demonstrates forging techniques.

A hand-made knife forged from roller chain.

A hand-made knife forged from roller chain.

Laurel resident John Lockie forged his way through the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” on an episode this past Wednesday. The program pits blacksmiths from all over the country against each other for the chance to win $10,000. Contestants are given a set of parameters which must be strictly followed in their construction of a functional bladed weapon. Judges evaluate the work of four blacksmiths through a series of tests until there are only two contestants remaining. The two who reach the end of regular competition are then sent back to their home forge to re-create an iconic weapon from history, and the blacksmith with the best blade wins a check for $10,000. Forged in Fire is in it’s ninth season on The History Channel.

Starting young

John Lockie grew up on a ranch in between Miles City and Jordan. Between a shop teacher in high school and a favorite uncle, Lockie learned how to weld in a relatively short period of time. Because of seasonal allergies, Lockie would stay behind in the ranch shop when it came time for outdoor work to be done. “I’d stay close to the shop. They would bring me things that needed fixed and I’d do repairs as they happened,” says Lockie.

Lockie eventually relocated to Laurel and set up his own shop, fabricating various items using his welding skills. His interest in forging was kindled when he was working on a custom welding job and realized that he needed to bend a piece of metal. He set up a simple forge so he could heat the metal and discovered a whole new world of possibilities. Mostly using reclaimed materials like old saw blades, roller chain, and hoof rasps, Lockie can create a diverse variety of knife designs.

“Make me a knife, any knife”

“People just want something that I made,” says Lockie. “I get orders where people just say make me a knife, any knife.” Business is good for Double Y Design Metal Works, where Lockie takes orders for custom projects such as railings, hat racks and large metal signs. When things get busy at the shop, the blacksmith is used to working under time constraints, but “never in that time crunch we had on the show,” says Lockie, “When you’re working for yourself you just know you have to get it done.” Lockie says that the forging process entails a lot of going back and forth between the forge and the press, ”pressing and consolidating the material until it takes shape.”

Recalling his experience filming the Forged in Fire episode this past January Lockie says, “You don’t get to walk around the forge,” Contestants must adhere a very specific set of criteria and are not allowed to get too acclimated to the workshop prior to the filming. Lockie was also a little disappointed that the production crew was working under COVID-19 protocols and there was little interaction between the judges and contestants due to social distancing requirements.

A special event

Lockie’s experience on the show was a little bit different from the regular format. The Laurel smith competed in a special event called “Gladiators of the Forge.” This five-part competition was a one-on-one sudden death matchup, with a potential to win $5,000 for each victory. Bonuses for multiple wins brought the total prize money up to $75, 000. This is the largest cash prize the show has ever offered, which provided motivation for Lockie as he tried to impress the judges right out of the gate.

“From the time they said go until I was out of the forge and heading to the press was eight minutes,” says Lockie, “the judges had never seen someone go that fast.” Lockie faced some tough competition, going up against a competitor who had already beat four smiths. With the toss of a coin, the two contestants were allowed to pick either the metal used in the challenge or the style of Roman weapon that they must build. Lockie’s competitor chose the Pugio dagger as the weapon, and Lockie chose bicycle chain as the forging material. From there, the two smiths faced off in an eight hour competition to see who could craft the best dagger. The Pugio dagger is thought to be the weapon that was used in the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 b.c.

“It will kill”

After a grueling forging round, show judges conducted their series of brutal strength and sharpness tests, as well as the popular kill test. Blacksmiths on the show look forward to hearing “it will kill,” from judge Doug Marcaida after he tests

Forged, Page 11 their weapon on a dummy made of ballistics gel. Lockie’s time on the show ended when judges chose the other blacksmith’s blade over his. It was not an easy decision for the judges, because both weapons performed admirably in testing. Regular viewers of the show recognize that the final decision often comes down to subtleties in handle design or weight.

A Montana craftsman Lockie hopes that his appearance on Forged in Fire will bring more customers to his business. He also has hopes of being invited back on the show at some point, which could be sooner than he thinks. The show often brings back former contestants who showed exemplary skill and craftsmanship for “redemption” competitions. Lockie says he would absolutely do it again. No redemption is needed for this Laurel blacksmith, as he carries the pride and experience of a true Montana craftsman.



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